Yoga for daily life: Womb yoga

Hatha yoga was originally created by men, for men, yet most practitioners and teachers in our modern yoga world are… women! Womb yoga is a new phenomen, drawing on ancient knowledge to empower you to cultivate a practice that honours the hormonal shifts of womanhood. It offers variations to support the rhythm of your menstrual cycle and enables you to create greater balance and equilibrium, in body, mind and heart from month to month.

As you progress from maiden to mother, through menopause and beyond, there are asanas (postures), sequences, breathwork and meditation techniques to empower you. Luckily for us, in recent years luminaries like Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, have been re-introducing these centuries-old techniques in a revolutionary form of yoga that connects you deeply with your greatest source of power as a woman – your ‘Yoni Shakti’, your womb of dynamic female energy and enables you to draw from this energy for greater health, harmony and happiness.

There are nine core practices to unlock power and honour the feminine life-force energy – known as the ‘Shakti Bandhas’. The Shakti energy’s primary quality is to move, yet in sitting in cars, office chairs, in ‘holding it together’, 21st century women often feel stuck, with the energy being stuck in the hips and pelvis. These practices, quite literally, open up the womb space, the pelvis and the hips, get the blood and energy flowing.

It all begins by honouring your womb, with softer and sensitive practices and, by exploring the sequences with gentleness, you will cultivate a deeper awareness of your female energy. Each practice involves either flexing and extending the spine or rotating the upper body separately from the lower body, awakening dormant energy that can then travel upwards to connect and open your heart and further chakras upwards along your spine.

The first Shakti Bhanda is a rhythmic pelvic circling called ‘Cakki Calanasana’ (instructions below by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli – buy her amazing book on which begins the ‘womb pilgrimage’ to invoke the sense of the womb as ‘an interior sacred lake’ with the circling movement, an exploration of her surrounding shores.

First discover your dominant svara  – notice how your breath flows through your nostrils – which nostril does the breath flow through more easily? If it is through the left, the left nostril is your dominant svara – if it is through the right nostril, the right is your dominant svara.
Sit with your legs straight, opened as wide apart as comfortable, heels pressed away, toes flexed to the sky.
Ensure your spine is upright and that you are sitting forwards on your sitting bones (with your belly soft and your pelvis tilted forward)
Begin with your arms by your sides.
Now extend your arms out in front, at shoulder height, with elbows softly bent to allow your shoulders to relax down and away from your ears.
Interlock your fingers, placing the right or left thumb on top according to your dominant svara.
Begin to circle around the womb, in a flowing motion that is either clockwise if your right svara is dominant, or anticlockwise if your left svara is dominant.
Move from the hips to trace large circles.
Exhale forwards and down, draw awareness from the heart, to the womb.
Inhale as you lean back and up, visualise the energy moving up from your womb to your heart.
One circle is one round, using one complete breath.
Synchronise the pace of your breathing with the movement of your circle.
The slower you breathe, the slower the circle.
Repeat nine times in the opposite direction of your non-dominant svara.
After the tenth round and rest your arms by your sides.
Raise your arms up to shoulder height and interlock the fingers with the other thumb on top and retreat, circling in the opposite direction ten times.
Rest with the arms by your sides, feeling a strong straight spine and observe your breath and energy settling.

The movement comes from the hips, with your spine straight and jaw relaxed. Do allow the elbows to bend at the joints so that the shoulder blades can rest down the back and enjoy this with your eyes closed so you can focus on the connection of the womb to the heart and the heart to the womb, opening up the river of energy between them. Do not do this asana if you have high blood pressure or suffer from lower back pain – a moderation is seated on a cushion with the knees gently bent with gentle and soft circles.

This is an amazing postural sequence for energising and revitalising in body, breath and mind, for connecting deeply to your heart and for getting grounded.

Explore an introduction to womb yoga during our brand new retreat: Nourish – Women-for-women Empowerment taking place in Ibiza from October 24 – 28, 2015.